The Story of Solutions

Anne Leonard and the makers of the Story of Stuff have come out with an important new video. The Story of Solutions explores how we can move our economy in a more sustainable and just direction, starting with orienting ourselves toward a new goal.

In the current ‘Game of More’, we’re told to cheer a growing economy – more roads, more malls, more Stuff! – even though our health indicators are worsening, income inequality is growing and polar icecaps are melting. But what if we changed the point of the game? What if the goal of our economy wasn’t more, but better – better health, better jobs and a better chance to survive on the planet?

Shouldn’t that be what winning means?

Off Green: Distractions on the Road to Saving the Environment

Fighting the climate change is probably the most important issue facing our generation. Many people of good will would like to do their part to address this problem, but don’t really know where to start from.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of disinformation out there, which leads people to take steps that might make them feel “green,” but don’t really help much, if at all.

Accordingly, this is the first of a series of articles giving examples of “green” initiatives that do little other than distract, along with ideas about what we should be doing instead.

This installment is all about drinking water. Future articles will delve into paperwork and electricity. Please send me feedback on these articles along with your ideas.

First part of series follows the jump.


Got Water?
Enjoy a drink and refill your bottle here!

Why support tap water?

  • Tap is regulated by the EPA, and held to stricter safety standards than bottled water.
  • Tap keeps plastic waste out of landfills and oceans.
  • Tap protects the privatization of a basic human right.
  • Tap avoids plastic bottle production, which relies heavily on petrochemicals and fossil fuels for raw materials, manufacture, and transport.
  • Tap only costs $0.002 per gallon.

Led by students, Hampshire college ended the sale of bottled water on campus in Fall 2012.

Bottled “Green” Water

The municipal waters in the areas where most of us live are perfectly healthy to drink, and yet many of us choose to drink bottled water. 20 billion barrels of oil go annually into making the water bottles that Americans throw out, creating 25 million tons of greenhouse gases.

Nestlé’s bottled water comes from Dallas, Texas, meaning that we are simply substituting Dallas water for Philadelphia water, and paying the supermarket and polluting the environment for the privilege. Other waters come from more exotic locations like Fiji. It is still the same H2O by another name, but it is being shipped around the world to quench our thirst.

Nestlé Waters, “The Healthy Hydration Company,” tries to “green-wash” their product:

To reduce the global environmental impact of PET bottles, Nestlé Waters created a new generation of packaging: the Eco-Shape PET bottle.

True, their new bottle is 25% lighter than its predecessor — largely due to a shorter bottle cap. Nevertheless, 25% lighter is still 75% too heavy compared to the truly environment-friendly alternative of a reusable water bottle, canteen or cup. In fact, the smaller cap makes the bottle more difficult to reuse, and is more prone to being swallowed by small children.

Oddly enough, most of our National Parks continue to sell bottled water, even though they have some of the most pristine water in the country on site. In fact, 30% of the Grand Canyon National Park’s recycling waste used to come from disposable bottles before it has gone bottled water-free.

Tis The Season To Get Trampled

Leading up to the holiday season, it’s hard to remember that there are things better, or more important, than shopping. You want to make sure everyone gets the perfect gift, stores bombard you with sales, and everyone else seems to be shopping, right?

Well, we want to show the world that there are better things to do than spend the day at the mall buying more stuff! Can you help us?

Tell us what you think is better than shopping – it could be spending time with your family, going for a hike… anything! We’ll use your photos to tell the story of people who’ve committed to #buynothing this holiday season.

Here’s what you do:

  • Print out the #buynothing sign.
  • Write your favorite activity in the blank. (example: “Sharing is better than shopping.”)
  • Take a picture and email it to [email protected].

The Story of Broke: Still Plenty of Money to Build a Better Future

New 8-minute video from award-winning Internet filmmaker Anne Leonard – creator of The Story of Stuff and The Story of Citizens United v. FEC

The United States isn’t broke; we’re the richest country on the planet and a country in which the richest among us are doing exceptionally well. But the truth is, our economy is broken, producing more pollution, greenhouse gasses and garbage than any other country. In these and so many other ways, it just isn’t working. But rather than invest in something better, we continue to keep this ‘dinosaur economy’ on life support with hundreds of billions of dollars of our tax money. The Story of Broke calls for a shift in government spending toward investments in clean, green solutions-renewable energy, safer chemicals and materials, zero waste and more-that can deliver jobs and a healthier environment.

It’s time to rebuild the American Dream; but this time, let’s build it better.

Annotated script follows the jump.

Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.  
Source: http://www.storyofstuff.org/wp…

Get Ready to Vote Today

Everyone is talking about the 2012 election, but where I live and in many places across America the next election is not in a year, but today.

So-called “off-year elections” determine who will be making decisions in your township, county or state. Turnout is usually low, and that makes your vote all the more important and decisive.

If you need any more motivation to get out and vote, please check out this video about our election process. It is from the makers of The Story of Stuff so you know its good. It speak to reclaiming the basic fairness in our democratic system.

Every Economic Cloud Has a Silver Lining


National Geographic argues the need for balance across the world population in this motion graphic video.

Or at least a green one…

Dan Loeb

America is slowly coming out of a recession. That is good news.

Or is it?

Officially, the U.S. economy is in a recession when our Gross Domestic Product as measured by the U.S. Department of Commerce declines for two consecutive quarters. In other words, our economy has “failed” when we stop producing quite as much stuff as we used to. Apparantly, we Americans are not living up to our patriotic duties and through our consumption encouraging manufacturers to produce quite as much stuff.

Part of the problem with this analysis is that we are not including the depletion of our natural resources in our calculations. If we produce consumer products but deplete our national treasure of irreplaceable resources, consume natural resources at an unsustainable rate and ruin the environment for generations to come, are we really better off?

Some politicians would like a more robust recovery. However, if we keep the GDP growing at 5% per year, year after year, then the economy is growing exponentially.  This growth can only be supported so long in a finite world. At some point, the growth can no longer be sustained, and with a global population of over seven billion people can that day of reckoning be that far away,.

All publically traded companies aspire to build value for their shareholders. They try to maximize the discounted present value of their future revenue.

For example, suppose I own a piece of wooded land, I could clear cut the land, sell the wood to a lumber mill and the land to a real estate developer for an immediate payment of one million dollars. Alternatively, I could harvest only the maximum sustainable yield annual tree growth and thus produce, in a sustainable manner, a permanent revenue of, say fifty thousand dollars per year.

Anne Leonard’s Story of Stuff is a provocative tour of our consumer-driven culture – from resource extraction to iPod incineration – exposing the real cost of our use-it and lose-it approach to stuff.

Which is better?

If the million dollars in sales are invested at an interest rate of 7%, they produce permanent revenue of seventy thousand dollars per year, so a corporation mindful of their shareholders will cover the forest with asphalt as soon as they can.

If the country is in a recession and interest rates go down to 3%, the million dollars only return thirty thousand dollars per year, so a smart corporation will engage in sustainable development preserving the forest for future generations.

By this logic, people do not plan as carefully for the future if interest rates are high. However, should our stewardship of our resources and indeed this planet truly depend on interest rates? The stakes are quite high. This logic applies not only to timberland in the Northwest United States but to the Amazon rain forest as well.

Deficit hawks tells us that by running a deficit and running up a debt which future our children and grandchildren will have to pay, we are stealing from future generations. If so, then we can make an even stronger argument about our environment. Non-renewable resources such as petroleum are like bank accounts from which we are withdrawing assets but never make any deposits. The oil we withdraw from our proven reserves are gone forever and will not be available to future generations. Similarly, when we pollute, we are saddling future generations with an environmental debt, depreciating the value of our oceans and our atmosphere to our children and grandchildren.

The Gross Domestic Product should not the be-all and end-all of our society.

  • In this calculation, we fail to address the cost to the environment of removing the carbon dioxide producing forest, and burning the trees.
  • Reusing consumer goods by repairing them or reselling them on Ebay does not contribute to the GDP, but it does just as much to maintain our American standard of living without as heavy a toll on the environment.
  • If a company pollutes the environment producing a product and then spends money partially cleaning up their own mess, the GDP is increased not only by the cost of the product but also by the cost of the cleanup. Focusing on the GDP literally encourages the creation of new “Superfund” sites.

We should act as if the interest rate were truly zero. By valuing future generations – our children and our children’s children – at the same level as current generations, we may slightly reduce our gross domestic product, but we ensure adequate supplies for future generations and protect the environment.

Daniel E. Loeb publishes the Philadelphia Jewish Voice. He is also a mathematician working in mathematical finance.